Pros and cons on this 2020 Truck of the Year finalist
- Stand-out design
- Good packaging
- Off-road chops
- Inconsistent steering
- Bumpy ride
- Loud interior
There’s hardly another truck on the market that looks as cool, fun, and approachable as the 2020 Jeep Gladiator. After decades of absence, a factory-built Jeep-badged truck is finally back. The Gladiator doesn’t just stand out for its design, though. The truck has great off-road capabilities, too, and even the Sport (base) model comes with decent equipment and a four-door cabin. But although we liked it overall, its ride and handling could be improved.
Every judge gave the Gladiator high marks for its unique design. With a wide body and an upright design, this Jeep’s proportions make it handsome from every angle. “Nothing else is like the Gladiator, and in a crowded market where brand allegiances ain’t what they used to be, I think standing out is a big plus,” senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said.
Part of that uniqueness is on its top; the Gladiator is the only convertible truck you can get today, whether you opt for the soft top or the hard top.
Having a Jeep means you’re getting excellent off-road capabilities, and the Gladiator is no exception. Despite its long wheelbase, the Rubicon was the only truck that made it through most of our off-road course in two-wheel drive, showing impressive articulation and traction. Whether it was going through the moguls, up a set of stairs, or on a rocky hill climb, the Rubicon didn’t stop short. Talk about performance of intended function—the Gladiator hits the mark.
But those off-road chops hurt its ride and handling on pavement. The bouncy ride on the freeway and its soft and inconsistent steering had the Gladiator moving left and right on the highway. Whether it was the Sport model with the six-speed manual and the soft top or the Rubicon with the eight-speed automatic and the hard top, both trucks were noisy and a bit uncomfortable for long rides. “Both trucks are very susceptible to crosswinds,” features editor Scott Evans said. “The steering has to be constantly monitored and managed, like the old-school live-front-axle it is.”
Judges preferred the eight-speed automatic over the manual in almost every case. The six-speed’s gear ratios are so spread out that it was hard to find the right gear in some cases.
When towing up Davis Dam, associate road test editor Erick Ayapana had to stay in second gear until he hit redline, then when shifting to third, the truck struggled to keep gaining speed. When towing the same weight as the Ford Ranger—its closest counterpart in this year’s competition—the Jeep seemed more strained.
Even when it rode unladen, it was hard to choose a gear to stay in. “All the gears are too long; first gear goes through 31 mph (50 km/h), second gear through 60 mph, and third gear through around 100 mph (161 km/h),” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “For a truck that’s supposed to work or off-road, that’s frankly insane.”
Even when you take its standard V-6 engine, four-wheel-drive traction, and extended cabin into consideration, the Gladiator’s $35,040 USD starting price is nonetheless quite high for the segment. Our Gladiator Rubicon’s price tag approached that of our Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, which resides in a segment above the midsize Jeep.
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator has everything it needs to properly represent the brand. Its design, off-road capabilities, and uniqueness are what draw so much attention to it, but its choppy ride, loud cabin, and inconsistent steering make us wonder if customers are giving up too much to be seen in a cool truck.
|2020 Jeep Gladiator||Sport||Rubicon|
|Base Price/As Tested||$35,040/$46,185||$45,040/$59,685|
|Power (SAE net)||285 hp @ 6,400 rpm||285 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm||260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||7.9 sec||8.3 sec|
|Accel, 0-60 mph (loaded)||9.3 sec*||Not tested|
|Accel, 0-60 mph (towing)||15.9 sec**||15.6 sec**|
|Quarter Mile||16.3 sec @ 84.1 mph||16.3 sec @ 85.0 mph|
|Quarter Mile (loaded)||17.3 sec @ 77.4 mph*||Not tested|
|Quarter Mile (towing)||20.6 sec @ 65.0 mph**||20.2 sec @ 68.1 mph**|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||129 ft||132 ft|
|Braking, 60-0 mph (loaded)||140 ft*||Not tested|
|Double Lane Change Time||3.5 sec||3.5 sec|
|Davis Dam Frustration||12.9 sec @ 883 ft***||14.3 sec @ 958 ft***|
|Cruise Control 65-mph Overrun||1.8 mph||2.2 mph|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||16/23/19 mpg||17/22/19 mpg|
|* 1,000-lb payload | ** 4,000-lb trailer|
|*** 35-55-mph uphill acceleration with 3,160-lb trailer|